Backyard garden

Gardening with Chef Sandra: Starting A Garden – Selecting Your Plants

Many may feel like starting a garden in these challenging times may be difficult. We are here to tell you that it is not!  There are many resources that you can access to get your own garden started.  Whether in containers, above ground, in the ground, or planted in whatever you can find around the house, starting a garden does not have to be a tough task.
Let’s begin with ordering a few plants to start with.  You can certainly start with seeds. However, it is important to identify your zone so you can ensure that you are starting the right things at the right time of the season.  For myself, I just ordered some things curbside from Calloways Nursery.

Where to Order Plants

I receive a local Garden Center newsletter  “Calloway’s Nursery” and recently discovered they offer curbside service. I was ecstatic! Gardening is more than just a hobby to me. It is a way of life, one that I have grown up learning and knowing.  One of the locations I used to frequent in my area closed, so I was glad to see this being offered, especially now. What a great discovery!  I wanted to add a few more things to my garden and because of the timing to plant here, I wanted to find a few starter plants.  All of the plants I purchased are in 4 inch pots which are perfect for planting.  You can also order planting soil, fertilizers, pots, etc from them so getting everything you need for your garden is not a problem.  If you are not near a Calloways Nursery, check into your local nurseries and home improvement stores as they may offer the same convenient services.

Selecting Your Plants

First thing in the cart was a Basic Pepper Trio (includes 2 bell pepper plants and 1 hot pepper plant).  I also purchased their Herb de Provence Kit that includes a 5 pack of herbs that included lavender, marjoram, thyme, oregano and rosemary.  ALL of these items make an appearance in my cooking and they are so easy to grow! And as if I don’t already have enough tomatoes growing, I also purchased the Tomato Starter Trio which includes a large tomato plant, a plum variety, and a cherry tomato.  I could not resist.  There is nothing like a fresh home grown tomato.  We ate tons of them growing up in our family garden.
Once I get my plants, I will show you how to plant bell peppers in a container. In preparation for this, you need to get the right sized pot to plant your bell pepper plants. So what size pot should you get?

Preparing to Plant Bell Peppers

Bell peppers need a well-draining pot that is at least 10 to 12 inches deep and 10 to 12 inches across. The material of the pot is not as important as its size. You want something that is large enough to accommodate the maturing pepper plant.  It should also be deep enough to encourage proper root development.  You can find containers around the house or feel free to add it to your cart when purchasing your plants.
Check out my recent video about seeds and get a peek at my backyard garden!

Where to Find Seeds

To find out where to get seeds, check out the links in a previous post about Thai Basil.

Tired of Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwiches…Try Turkey Crostinis!

Turkey Crostini
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Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • Baguette
  • Spreadable Goat Cheese (Or Cream Cheese)
  • Roasted Turkey
  • Chef Sandra's Cranberry Orange Jam (Or another cranberry topping)
  • Garnish
Instructions
  1. Brush olive oil on both sides of the baguette.
  2. Toast it at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
  3. Then put spreadable goat cheese on the baguette. You can also use cream cheese.
  4. Next add some of your roasted Turkey.
  5. Top with Chef Sandra's cranberry orange jam or some other cranberry topping.
  6. Lastly, garnish the top.

 

Fresh From The Gardens in Martha’s Vineyard

Dancing at Lola’s, letting the sea breeze whip through my hair, sitting on the porch enjoying fresh seafood…ahhh Martha’s Vineyard.

Recently I spent two weeks at the Massachusetts island that sits south of Cape Cod. The island has everything from beaches to farmland. The great thing is that it is only accessible by boat or air so you are preparing to completely de-stress while you are sitting on the ferry or peering through the window of the plane. There are so many amazing things about MV, that’s Martha’s Vineyard if you didn’t know. :o) So many, that I had to narrow my growing MV Favorites list down to 5 things.

 

Meeting New People
MV brings so many people together every year. Every time, I get that much closer to my travelling buddies and add new friends to the circle. This year I had a chance to provide boutique catering services for a dinner party. In that group of friends and family were people from everywhere, in the US and outside of the US. Even a simple stroll down the street will yield amazing conversations and the opportunity to interact with yet another new friend!

 

 

 


Breathtaking Scenery

Hydrangeas as big as your head!! The flowers and well manicured lawns are immaculate. They provide the touch of elegance that compliments the ornate homes with sprawling porches. Porch life is definitely a thing on the island. You eat, socialize and some even sleep on their porches. It is also a good way to strike up the occasional conversation with the folks passing by. Altogether its picturesque scene steeped so deeply in history looks as though you’ve walked straight into an oil painting.

 

 

 

Shopping
I love to shop…usually for great food but in this case I will make an exception. The shopping in the area boasts unique items that can only be found in Martha’s Vineyard. One such store/brand is The Black Dog. The Black Dog brand has history dating back to 1932. Visit their website to learn about the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Polar Bear Experience

A trip to Martha’s Vineyard would not be complete without a dip in the Inkwell to join the Polar Bears for an experience to remember. Women and men of all ages and color gather every morning between July 4 and Labor Day to continue to carry on a more than 50 year tradition.  Read more about that experience in a Vineyard Gazette article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great restaurants and eateries
Of course I have to share a bit about the great places to grab a bite. There were so many wonderful stops with history and delicious dishes!

Linda Jeans and the Healthy Start
Ice cream shops
Ben & Bills
Mad Martha’s
Lambert’s Cove in West Tisbury
Seafood Shanty
Lobsterville Bar & Grill
– Favorite lobster roll
Hot buttered with truffle fries

 

 

Fresh seafood and produce
As a chef, I value the freshness of the ingredients that I use in not only my clients meals but also my own. With this in mind, having the ability to shop for fresh food from Alley’s Farm Stand in Tisbury explore and grab fresh vegetables and fruit then on to Net Result for seafood just caught the same morning it was purchased put the icing on this proverbial cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Strawberry Month

Every year, I look forward to strawberry season so I can stock my pantry and condiment supply with a variety of strawberry jams. Since its National Strawberry month, we wanted to share with you some of the things we like to do with our strawberries and also share a couple of quick tips.

Strawberry season is short here in Texas so I decided to head back out to my favorite spot to pick strawberries, which is at Good Earth Organic Farm.  The strawberries at Good Earth Organic Farm are plump, juicy, and sweet. This was my third year returning to pick some beautiful sun-ripened berries and I was not disappointed. After spending an afternoon picking those yummy red jewels, I am ready to get into the kitchen to make all types of things from jams and vinaigrette to refreshing smoothies.
Maybe you too have amassed a bunch of strawberries from one of those U-pick or roadside stands or picked up a supply from one of your local farmer’s markets and now have more strawberries than you know what to do with.  Here’s a few tips on making your strawberries last so you can enjoy them for more than a few days!

 

 

Quick Tips

Strawberries are extremely delicate so you should put them up as quickly as possible and if if you are making jams and preserving them, for the freshest quality, you should try to can them within a couple of days of picking or purchasing them.
If you don’t can, freezing strawberries is the simplest way to preserve them quickly.  You can then enjoy them in smoothies, desserts or in baking. Please note, frozen strawberries should be used within 6 months.
Don’t soak your strawberries in water.  They will loose their flavor and you will wash away some good nutrients.
It is optional to sprinkle a little sugar before freezing. I don’t add any sugar to my berries.

How to Freeze Strawberries

Remove the tops of the strawberries after rinsing.
Freeze them whole.
Whole strawberries are great to have on hand for your favorite smoothie recipe or to add to your favorite strawberry dessert.
Rinse them gently, spread them evenly on a baking sheet so they can freeze without touching each other and place the baking tray in your freezer until they are frozen solid.
Place them in an airtight container or you can also use zip lock freezer bags (not storage bags).  Be sure to put a date on your container.
 
Hope you enjoy strawberry season as much as I do!!